How to Build Powerful Mindfulness Exercises Into Your Life
We must each lead a way of life with self-awareness and compassion, to do as much as we can. Then, whatever happens we will have no regrets. ~Dalai Lama
Where have we come from and how did we get to where we are now? Our species appeared on the planet around a quarter of a million years ago. Seven billion of us, and our ancestors, have changed our physical and social environment so radically that the living support systems of the planet itself are threatened.
If you’re reading this, you’re most probably part of those of us who are fortunate enough to have a roof over your head, comfortable clothing, enough food to eat and a whole load of other stuff that takes up most of your time. And a lot of that time is going to be spent working to pay for all that stuff. In spite of this stress, depression and anxiety have reached epidemic proportions. How do we make a better, happier world?
There’s an explosion of interest in mindfulness, which has sprung from recent scientific work on depression. We’re beginning to understand how solving problems is great for getting some kinds of things, like making washing-up machines to was dishes and putting a man on the moon, but we’re beginning to understand that our minds don’t work like machines.
You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Things like our minds and our bodies and other complex systems may be taken to pieces to see how they work but we miss the bigger picture if we think this is how they work. Somehow things seem to organise themselves and we need to find ways of harnessing these self-organising principles instead of trying to solve problems we now face in the same old ways; ways that just created the problems in the first place.
Mindfulness teaches us to “not-do” anything at all, with purpose. When we do this we can begin to learn how to harness this force of life that keeps us open to new possibilities as opposed to reacting out of habit with problems solving approaches. We learn more to enjoy the small things in life, we become more patient with ourselves and with those around us and we become better partners, parents, children, employees, managers and entrepreneurs because of it.
Look at the mind that emerges out of a crowd. Think of the way culture reflects the way people think and behave and, in turn, how culture shapes the way we develop. Think of what may happen when people step out of the vicious cycle of “problems solving” and more and more people feed the energy of a virtuous cycle by just being more aware of how they feel or how others feel around them. This is what can happen if we can build simple but powerful mindfulness exercises into our lives. Have a look at this talk to find out more.
This article was written by Mark Leonard. Mark was trained to teach Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) and was informally authorized to teach by a senior academic monk under the Dalai Lama. His support for the OMC and other related activity is motivated by a wish to see wide access to these ideas and practices in contemporary society.